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Fishing in and out of Lockdown

February 2, 2021 at 9:15 pm

Kept at home with Covid travel restrictions and no end in sight, I have concluded that it will be a long time before I can travel to my Farnborough and District Club waters, where I am Vice President, driving fifteen miles from my home not considered a reasonable distance to travel for exercise.

As a fly fisherman, I was first attracted to the Club to fish the tiny Hampshire chalk stream, that is the River Whitewater. Only seven miles in length, the club has the final 3 miles to where it joins the confluence of the River Blackwater, and is classed as a mixed fishery, with wild brown trout on fly fishing gear from 1st April until 30th September, with a crossover of methods with coarse fishing from the 16th June, until 15th march.

When the first Lockdown ended in mid May, I drove to the River Whitewater with my fly rod to take advantage of the annual Mayfly hatch and was fortunate to find a large over wintered brownie smacking into a hatch of green Mayfly. Being early in the season, the flies were hatching intermittently and this trout was making the most of those on the surface. I waded up along the bank until I was within casting range, a gusting upstream wind making placing the fly difficult, but after several casts, the fly drifted onto the surface just above the trout’s nose and it took. The 7 ft No 3WT rod bent double on the take and after a ten minute fight, the 22 inch trout was on the bank.

In early June I booked in to fish Shawfield Fishery, the Club restricting numbers to 15 people a day due to the Covid regulations. Opting to fish the small lake with the pole and the bread punch, I fed a heavy mix of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets in balls 7 to 10 metres out, plus a couple more in close alongside a bed of lilies. Small rudd were a nuisance, but tench moved into the swim and I landed four between 3lb and 4lb 8oz, my 12 – 18 red elastic coping well with the hard fighting tench. This was the biggest of the afternoon.

During August, just as we were beginning to think that life was returning to normal, the Club carried out a much needed work party on the badly overgrown bottom stretch of the River Whitewater at Ford Lane, opening up several swims for coarse fishing. A few weeks later I travelled light with just a rod and a landing net to try one of the new swims, catching roach on the bread punch, until a pike took one of my fish, the pike finally snagging me in some roots. Trotting worms on the stick float brought a succession of  perch, while a switch back to the punch put more roach and some chub in the net, before the pike returned to fish off the day.

The River Blackwater at Camberly club stretch has proved a perfect venue for bread punch roach on the stick float, but this Autumn after the second Lockdown, I found that the chub are growing on quickly, taking five hard fighting chub and some quality roach on the stick float with punched bread on the hook.

Now in 2021 the year ahead beyond the third Lockdown looks to be one of continuing restrictions, which I hope will be lifted enough to allow wider travel to some of my favourite fishing haunts.







Winter roach take bread punch on the stick float after the floods

January 19, 2021 at 4:20 pm

Heavy rain had caused flash floods on my local river Cut this week. Draining the acres of concrete and tarmac around the town, the little river has been up and over its banks like a yoyo in recent weeks. With more rain forecast, I was lucky to catch it on the way down again, when I visited for an afternoon’s fishing.

For the first time this year, I followed the path downstream to a swim where a bush grows out into the river on the outside of a bend, with the main flow and deeper water passing beneath it. This has obviously proved a popular spot, judging by a variety of floats tangled in the branches along the waterline.

Positioning my tackle box upstream of the bush, I set up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with a 4 No 4 Drennan Ali stick float to a size 18 hook, to fish a 5 mm punch of rolled bread. Plumbing the depth over to the front edge of the bush, the float was adjusted to fish an inch off bottom to start with. The pace of the river was quite quick here and expected to go over depth to hold the float back to slow it down if bites were slow in coming. Over night temperatures had been close to zero again and decided to mix up only a small amount of liquidised bread with a dusting of Haith’s red Spice attractor. This has a sweet aroma and has proved good for roach and chub in similar conditions for me before, also when damped down it forms firmer balls of feed, which sink quicker on a fast flow. On a cold, dull day it helps to think that you have an edge to get the bites.

I squeezed up a couple of pigeon egg sized balls of feed and put them in one and two yards upstream of the bush, watching the balls fall through the cloud, the line edging the bush. Easing the float through along the edge of the bush produced a slight hold of the float. I stopped the float with a finger over the line and the float sank, the strike putting a bend in the rod from a hard fighting roach.

This is what I came for, a solid roach that dived back under the bush before being drawn away into open water and the landing net. The hook fell out in the net and decided to net every fish whatever its size.

The bites were very fussy, but consistent, helped I think by the Spice mix, putting in a small ball every 15 minutes. The hot spot was just to the end of the bush and if I hadn’t struck a bite by then, a full stop of the float often saw it pulled down by another clonker.

These roach did not hang around once hooked, fighting deep, while I tried to slowly bring them to the surface, before sliding them over to the net. I lost one big ‘un, when it change direction suddenly and headed for the shallows on my bank, only to run itself aground. Lifting it over the lip of the landing net, it gave a flip and was unhooked, heading off at top speed before I could net it again. Flip!

Several bites I missed because the float dithered and half sank, then popped up again, while leaving the float to continue ended up with no bread on the hook. I think these may have been dace, or maybe gudgeon, or even one of the many stickle backs that have flourished this year. Who knows, as none were hooked.

The pace picked up and I added 6 inches to the depth and trickled the float through, holding the float up with the rod raised and continued to catch roach.

One of these quality roach had a large slash on it’s shoulder, possibly a stab from a heron? It fought well, but I put it back immediately to avoid damage in the keepnet and it darted away, none the worse for wear.

The bites were now becoming mere touches as the river sped up even more than before, it had rained lightly in the previous hour, but this was a real flush through. A heavy shower further upstream? I added another 6 inches to the depth and slowed the float to quarter pace, the float dragged under and I was in again.

I thought that this was a chub when I first struck, the roach diving away downstream behind the bush as it fought with the current keeping deep, but that characteristic pounding fight was not chub-like and a flash of silver said roach. Having lost one big roach already that afternoon, I took my time bringing it to the surface and my net. What a beauty.

Time for a cup of tea and a mince pie.

It was now hard work controlling the float, a gusting downstream wind not helping, but the roach were still there.

Now disaster struck. Somehow my reel line snagged around a root at my feet and I jerked it free, snapping the line. Rather than cutting off my float, then rethreading new line through the rod rings back to the float, I opted to tie a blood knot to rejoin the two ends. Even with cold, shaking hands, I completed this and continued fishing, but the knot kept catching in the small rings of the rod, ruining my float presentation. This was the end of my bites. It had been a rewarding two and a half hours, packing up at 2:30.


Winter rudd and carp on bread punch, beat the cold in Lockdown

January 13, 2021 at 5:07 pm

Abiding by the UK Lockdown rules of travel within the confines of your town, or village, my local pond fitted the bill, it being a short walk from my home. Only two days before the pond had been covered in ice, but overnight rain had flooded the feeder stream, leaving it coloured, but fishable.

A light drizzle still lingered in the air, as I set up my pole at seven metres to fish my usual summer, or winter light waggler rig, mixing up a wet mix of liquidised bread with a dusting of ground carp pellets and a few dozen 2 mm krill pellets, which soon softened to add a bit more attraction. Bait was to be a 6 mm punched bread pellet on a size 16 barbless hook. There was no surface activity, but I was hopeful that the four small balls of feed put out at 9 metres, would soon wake up the resident fish enough to show some interest.

It took less than five minutes for the first ring to radiate out from the float tip and another couple for the tip to sink below the surface from a disinterested rudd. In summer the bait would have been attacked on contact with the water, but after prolonged days and nights of subzero temperatures I was beginning to have my doubts, of the bread punch’s ability to catch fish in the coldest conditions. Confidence renewed, I swung in a small rudd.

A couple of minutes later, the float was gone again with another small rudd swung to hand from the top three pole sections.

Bites were still slow, but the swim was definitely warming up and the sight of pin prick bubbles close to my float got me poised for action, while a series of sharp dips followed by a steady sink away of the tip, saw the elastic pull out from the pole for the first time that afternoon.

This fat crucian carp dashed around stirring up mud until right under my net, then popped up onto the surface ready to be landed. The rudd were getting bigger too.

These rudd were solid and full of fight, lightly hooked they all required the landing net.

My rudd catching rhythm was interrupted by a solid rush, when I hooked into a carp, that stripped out the elastic, boiling up the black mud as it tracked across the pond, while I followed with the pole under tension keeping up the pressure. My wife had arrived minutes earlier and watched as I shifted the pole behind me, before breaking the pole down to the top three for the final run in to the net.

A perfect wild common carp and worth the effort to come out on a cold, dull afternoon. Time to celebrate with a shared KitKat and warming cup of tea, before putting out another couple of feed balls. It was soon too cold for my wife to stand around and she continued her walk to the post box, just missing the capture of one of this pond’s oddities, a crucian-fantail hybrid that got my heart racing again.

Crucian shaped with a powerful rudder, this fan tail motored around in the shallow pond, making netting a guessing game as to where it would appear next, but was eventually intercepted.

There were still plenty of rudd to catch, the slow bites of earlier settling into a predictable sequence.

I scraped up the last of the feed and was running out of holes to punch in my rolled bread. I started to consider packing up soon, although still only 2:30, the clouds had darkened and the temperature was dropping fast. These thoughts evaporated, when I lifted into yet another decent carp, that shot off towards the remains of a lily bed to my right, steadily pulling out elastic, but slowing as the pressure increased, bringing it to a mud boiling halt, before it turned and rushed past me into the open water. It soon rolled in front of me and down to the top three, I guided it into the net.

Another fatty and round like a barrel, the size barbless 16 hook held just inside the skin of its mouth.

A gudgeon and several more small rudd passed the time toward 3 pm, a last decent rudd topping two and a half hours of constant action. There would be tea and a slice of Christmas short bread waiting at home.





Lockdown 3 Latest. Angling reinstated as a permissible recreation

January 7, 2021 at 1:38 pm

Following representations from the Angling Trust and Members of Parliament, the Government have backtracked on their earlier decision to ban angling, due to it not being considered a viable form of exercise, but have reconsidered it as a permissible form of recreation. Tier 4 rules apply, with social distancing and no more that two people fishing together, while fishing competitions remain banned. Tackle shops can open on a strictly click and collect basis. Travel to fish should be kept as local as possible.

Having allowed angling to continue throughout Lockdown 2, it did seem illogical to ban it for this third lockdown. The mental health aspects of getting out in the fresh air and fishing are well documented, while anyone that has dragged their fishing tackle from the car, then trudged over wet ground to their favourite fishing spot will agree, that it is also a healthy form of physical exercise, apart from landing a decent net of fish.




Lockdown No 3 comes into force. Angling banned until further notice.

January 6, 2021 at 6:52 pm

With my part of the UK already in Tier 4 and the new strain of Covid 19 rampant, the UK Government have been on catch up trying to thwart a rapid rise in infection, leading to greatly increased hospital admissions and ultimately deaths. Lockdown 2, announced for a month at the end of October, had seen a reduction in the original strain of the virus and hopes of a five day family Christmas were announced, only to be cut back to one day, as the new strain took hold. Many families, my own included, decided to err on the side of safety and restrict their Christmas interaction to Zoom calls.

With the announcement of a looming third Lockdown, it was assumed that Angling once again would be permitted as reasonable exercise and I went fishing yesterday afternoon, while my wife went off to the local Tesco to get stocked up with essentials. Sticking to the Tier 4 guidelines of minimum travel, I drove the two miles to Jeanes Pond in the hope of a few decent winter roach on the pole and bread punch, although it was blowing a gale and just above zero in temperature.

I walked round the pond to be in the lee of the hill and set up at peg 13, just in time for the rain to start. Covering up the liqudised bread, I fed a pigeon egg sized ball over the drop off 5 metres out and swung the 4 x 16 antenna float out to drop through the fine cloud of bread. I waited for a bite and waited some more. Lifting the rig and recasting after 5 minutes. The 5 mm bait was still there untouched. This is unusual, even after the succession of sub zero nights over the past few days, I would have expected a bite by now. I put in another small ball of bread two metres to the left, raising the hook six inches and cast over it. Another few minutes and a welcome ring radiated out from the antenna. A bite at last. Another ring and a half dip that held. I struck and missed the bite. More dithering bites, all missed.

I decided that the 4 x 16 float with a 5 mm punch in a size 16 was too big for these lethargic fish and changed the rig to a 4 x 14 fine antenna float to a size 18 hook with a 4 mm punch of bread. I put another small ball over the original spot and cast over it again. Another ring and the float slowly moved. Thinking that it was probably wind drift, I struck anyway and felt the resistance of a fish, that soon splashed upon the surface, before being lifted to hand. Despite my cold hands, it was freezing cold to the touch.

A small rudd. At this stage I was not complaining and at least it had stretched out the No 6 elastic a bit. I dropped the float in again. This time I felt the fish, but it dropped off as I lifted it to hand. I put a small ball over both areas and got out my bag of punch bread, selecting a strip of rolled bread. 2 mm thick, it punched out a tight 4 mm pellet, which slipped into the hook. Casting over the second feed area, the float sank as it cocked and I was bringing a roach to the landing net.

The fish had woken up, but the bites were still difficult to hit. Hooking a tiny four inch roach, I bulked the shot closer to the hook and stopped feeding. If there were better fish in the swim, they would be on the bottom by now and raised the float to fish just off bottom.

The wind had veered round causing an opposite drift, not helping bite detection, sporadic rain adding to the misery and after an hour at 2 pm, I only had five fish in the net, none of them the clonkers, that I came for. The original area had gone dead and I suspected that a pike had drifted in, but the wait for bites over the second produced a few more.

It was not pleasant fishing in this weather with diminishing results, another four inch roach and slightly better one being the final fish at 2:20.

Ten minutes without a bite saw me pack up at 2:30. I had used very little liquidised bread for fear of feeding the fish off, when their metabolism would have been barely ticking over, but who knows, maybe I didn’t feed enough? That’s fishing.

I arrived home not long after my wife, who was busy filling the freezer and shelves with supplies. Hearing my tale of woe, she agreed that I could make up for it by fishing the next day if I wished. My planning of a visit to a prolific river was interrupted by a call from an angling friend, who informed me of the good news, that angling was banned until further notice.

By law I can walk along and sit by a river taking in the scenery, but the moment I put a rod in my hand, I am performing an illegal act. What is the logic in that? Happy Days.


Shy winter roach take the bread punch on the river Cut

December 12, 2020 at 1:15 pm

I do not go fishing in the rain and with a gloomy, but dry day forecast, I got my bread ready to fish my local river Cut, microwaving a couple of frozen slices, then rolling them flat, preparing for winter roach. The previous days had seen temperatures only topping 5 Centigrade and today would not be much better with a promised 7 C, but with cabin fever setting in, I had to get out fishing. Ready to leave, I opened the door and yes, it was raining. Hanging my head, I walked back into the house, where my wife was cosied up watching TV. “It’s raining!” She peered out of the window, “You’ve been out in far worse than this before.” True, but that was in my match fishing days, when I HAD to fish. Now as a fully signed up pleasure fisherman, I have options. I decided to go.

Parking up at the river, the rain had reduced to heavy drizzle and by the time that I had tackled up the 12 foot Hardy float rod, it was down to a fine mist.

Due to the introduction of berms by the Environment Agency a few years ago, the river has taken on more character, this swim having a deep run along the far side, while shallows have been deposited along the nearside.

Due to the drizzle, I kept the liquidised bread in the bag, dipping my hand in to squeeze up the balls, while covering over the punch bread. To start off, I fed two balls of liquidised bread close to the far bank, watching them sink through the clear water, gauging that they would reach the bottom a couple of yards downstream. With a 6 mm punch of bread on a size 16 barbless hook under a 4 No 4 Drennan stick float, I cast in behind the bait cloud and waited for a sign of interest in my bait. After a yard, a series of dips of the float developed into a pull under, but I struck just as the float resurfaced and missed it. Next cast more dips and I held the float back slightly. It sank and I was playing a roach that darted through the swim, bringing it to the surface, then across the shallows to the landing net.

This decent roach came bang on noon and I looked forward to a few hour’s rewarding fishing before it got dark. The bites were very fussy, gentle dips and taps, but few pull downs. When the bites stopped each trot, I knew that the bread was gone. Holding back each time over the fed area brought more positive bites, this next roach coming five minutes after the first.

It was after this roach that I noticed the pace of the river had sped up, a sign that the daily dose of brown water was coming, which sends the fish off the feed. On my previous visit this mild pollution had come between 10 and 11 am and had hoped that I had missed it, but here it was beginning to stain the water.

The bites were even fussier now, the bread often coming back hardly sucked.  I decided that the size 16 was too big for the bait and swapped for a tiny size 20 hook and 4 mm pellet of bread. It worked, partly at least, the float holding down long enough to hit a smaller roach.

The roach got smaller, at least they were fish, many dropping off the hook. The river was now murky and I could barely make out the bottom, but the tips and bobs continued. This is what they were, sticklebacks. Twenty bites and three of these. They will survive in the most polluted river and they were the only fish feeding now.

I kept going, in between cups of tea and sandwiches,  and after 45 minutes I almost cheered when I caught a small roach. It was a sign that the pollution had pushed through again.

Many more of these small roach followed, when I was surprised to have the rod bend into a much better roach from the same dithering bite.

I was back in business, the small hook and bait bringing more positive bites and better fish.

I was now feeding a small ball into the channel every other fish, the landing net retrieving fish after fish. A small chub gatecrashed the roach queue, rushing off down stream, bending the rod over.

When I used to fish with maggots, size 20 hooks were the norm, even going down to a 22, but now the 20 barbless looked tiny and I worried that I would lose fish, but quite the opposite, despite the fussy bites, I was hooking and landing more than usual.

Next up was a good dace, that I could see tumbling in the clearing river, as I brought it to the net.

I wondered whether it was one of those that was stocked a couple of weeks ago.  The roach kept coming.

This roach looked like it had had some rough treatment at some time, maybe a mink? It fought well though.

The river was now back to normal, with gudgeon back on the bread.

I’m sure that this was one of the dace stockies, as was the one below.

With wet hands, the bread was sticking to my palms and coating the fish.

It was now 3 pm and the light was fading fast, while the drizzle had begun again, but the roach were still feeding over the carpet of bread crumbs. With cold hands and failing sight, I went back up to the 5 mm punch, which was easier to get on the hook.

I knew that I would have to pack up soon, but the bites kept coming, still dips and plucks, until the float would hold station long enough to strike, followed by a hectic fight and another good roach in the net.

The last roach of a late burst of action, this one requiring the flash, although the light was still there to see to pack up. It had been an interesting session, the bites had not improved much beyond nibbles, but there were over 40 fish in the net after three hours.






Rustic pigeon pie

December 4, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Having been gifted a brace of fresh wood pigeons, I knew what I wanted to do with them, make a pie. The meat is dark and rich in flavour, having the texture of beef when cooked, benefiting from the addition of a beef stock cube to complement the flavour. This pie is ideal for using up any vegetables in the kitchen and is ready for the oven in under an hour.

Not pretty , but very tasty.

Removing the breast meat

Removing the breast from the pigeon is quick and easy, only requiring a sharp knife, a bowl of water and kitchen towel. A bowl of water? Pigeon breast feathers are soft and sticky, the water being handy to dip your fingers and knife into, cleaning your fingers on the towel, while separating the meat from the breast bone. Stage 1, cut, or twist the wings off and lay on it’s back. Stage 2, pluck a few feathers from the crown of the breast to expose the skin. This is where the bowl of water comes in handy to unstick the feathers. The exposed skin is very soft and can be peeled away on either side, revealing the meat, while saving the mess of plucking the whole breast. Stage 3, take your knife and follow the line of the breast bone each side, allowing the bone to guide the blade, front and back, until each half is released and able to be lifted out. If doing this in the field, grass is a convenient cleaning cloth! The rest of the pigeon can be bagged and discarded.

The above ingredients is enough for two pies.


4 halves of pigeon breast

2 small potatoes – diced

1 carrot – diced

1 medium onion – chopped

2 sticks celery – chopped

4 mushrooms – peeled and chopped

100 grams pork lardons or fatty bacon

1 TBS of cooking oil

1 beef stock cube

1 TBS of flour

1 pack of ready made short crust pastry


Tenderise the breasts. I use a steak mallet. This also flattens out the meat, allowing it to be diced into 20 mm cubes. Put to one side.

Put the diced potato and carrot into a small saucepan and par boil on a gentle heat. When easily pierced with a knife, remove from the heat and drain off into a cup, breaking up the stock cube and stirring in to make a stock.

While waiting for the diced vegetables to boil, using a large frying pan, add the oil and brown off the onions until transparent, add the celery along with the lardons, stirring until lightly browned. Being fat free, the pigeon will cook better in the pork fat. Now add the pigeon to the mix,  turning over and lightly browning the meat, not too much, or it will toughen. Now add the diced vegetables, the mushrooms and the stock, bringing to a boil, while stirring in the flour to thicken the stock.  Leave to cool.

In the past I made pastry the way mother used to, a pinch of salt, self raising flour and butter rubbed gently between the fingers in a bowl, until a crumbly mix was formed, then milk added sparingly, while working the dough into a dry ball. Cover and leave in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes. This helps the fat in the pastry to cool, for rolling. Works every time.

With a Tesco supermarket just around the corner however, it was convenient to buy some ready made short crust pastry, as I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labour that evening for dinner, while the other was put in the freezer for another day.


Bread punch crucians and rudd defy the cold at Allsmoor

November 28, 2020 at 4:02 pm

A sudden cold snap had covered my garden bird bath with ice this week, but by lunchtime weak sunshine was filtering through the trees, as I set up my pole to fish Allsmoor pond close to my home. There was no surface movement of fish and the outlook seemed bleak, two other anglers confirming that they had not had a bite between them. I was pleased to see that someone had removed the Tesco trolley from the shallows in this swim and that the lilies had almost died back. Although a natural holding area for carp, the lily bed offers an instant escape route for the better fish in summer.

Setting up with my usual 3 No 4 short waggler rig, I was more concerned with the leaves coating the surface, than worries about getting a bite, the punch always produces fish at Allsmoor. Mixing up a near wet mix of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets with a dusting of 2 mm krill pellets, I was hoping for a few carp and crucians among the inevitable rudd.

Four decent balls of feed between eight and nine metres were just on the edge of the deeper water, spreading out to provide a wide area into which I could place the float with its size 16 barbless hook and 6 mm punch of bread. Leaves were still falling and being blown round from the east end of the pond, requiring accurate casting into the gaps, the lightweight rig often snagging up on sunken leaves.

Bites were instant, as rudd crowded in over the feed and I was soon working overtime hooking and stripping back the willing red fins.

After twenty minutes, the elastic made a brief appearance from the tip of the pole as a small common carp made a rush for the decaying lilies, but was dragged back to my landing net instead.

Almost as round as it was long, this mini carp packed a powerful punch on a cold day.

A few more rudd, then the elastic was out again as a crucian searched out the bottom for a snag. The hook can be seen barely holding in the skin of crucian’s top lip.

It was then back to bashing through the rudd, some nice ones among them.

The sun had long gone and a chill breeze was sweeping across the surface from the east, moving the leaves about and causing me to warm up with tea and a sandwich, while I put on my jacket to keep the cold from my bones. It was still only 2:30, but the temperature was dropping fast.

Some clonking gudgeon had now moved in, giving carp like bites, that dipped and the float, then slowly sank away, each bite getting me ready for something bigger.

These crucians played around with the bread for up to ten minutes before moving off and I dropped two or three being too enthusiastic and impatient in equal doses, bringing them to the surface, then watching them swim away off the hook.

Finding time for my last sandwich and a cup of tea had to be fitted in, the float constantly going under.

The light was going and I was having trouble seeing the float among the leaves and made the rudd below my last fish.

It had been a busy afternoon, but despite thermals and the fish catching work out, I was now chilled to the bone and ready for home, followed by a hot shower.


2 lb an hour on a late autumn afternoon.

EA restock the River Cut, 15 minutes later it was polluted again

November 26, 2020 at 2:41 pm

I was at my local River Cut to watch the Environment Agency restock the river, following pollution that killed a 1,000 fish in the summer. The river looked in perfect condition and has been fishing well despite the pollution, this 650 roach, dace and chub a top up to replace those lost.

The EA fish farm truck had arrived bang on time at 10 am from Calverton near Nottingham and was soon ready to offload the fish, while myself and another club member looked on. This is a UK wide service paid for by income from fishing license fees, being part of the wider fishery improvement work carried out by the agency.

The fish are carried in oxygenated tanks at a level of 300% of normal and were netted out into buckets, then introduced into their new home in the river.

When the fish had been stocked, the farm truck drove off to another destination, while my friend and I watched the fish spread out across the river. We then stood chatting at the outlet channel and were stunned to see a thick cream coloured solution pouring from one of the underground tunnels.

In minutes the river had been transformed from a clear flowing stream to an alien looking one.

I called the national EA Incident Line on 0800807060 and had an instant response, the information being relaid to local agency officers and Thames Water, who sent investigators to the scene. Fish were topping all over the river and we feared for the worst, but thankfully no fatalities seemed apparent.

Returning to the river four hours later, there were two EA officers taking river samples along its length, the upper section at the outlet where the pollution had entered now being clear, although a thick sediment was coating the bottom. Further down the river was still highly coloured.

Fearing that the fishing had been ruined, my friend Mick was on the bank the following morning for a test fishing session and his smile said it all, reporting a steady catch of gudgeon and roach from his favourite swim.

Panic over, but ironic that this often polluted river, should suffer again only minutes after receiving more fish. No doubt in time we will find out what and where this latest influx has come from and hope that there are no long term effects on the fishing.



Bread punch chub and roach reward persistence on the Blackwater

November 19, 2020 at 5:14 pm

The river Blackwater in Surrey is notorious for flash floods, acting as a rainwater drain for the towns and housing estates along its valley, it goes up and down like a yoyo and I was fortunate to catch it on the way down, after days of heavy rain this week. The skies were threatening, when I arrived before lunch and was welcomed to a new swim by a light shower, but this had blown over by the time that I had settled my tackle box onto the sloping bank.

I had managed to find a gap in the trees with just enough room to clear my 12 foot Hardy float rod, when my box was perched close to the bank. It was still a bit of a parrot cage, but the swim offered the option of trotting a stick float down the inside, through the middle and across to the bushes on the far side.

On the outside of a bend, the flow was pacy along my bank and I fed upstream a couple of heavy balls of liquidised bread, mixed with ground carp pellets, ground hemp and hempseed, squeezed up hard, watching the feed break up into lumps when it reached the bottom in front of me. Setting the 4 No 4 Drennan stick to trip bottom, with a 7 mm punch of bread on the size 16 hook, I was surprised to see the float dive away downstream only yards away first cast. I missed the bite, but next trot connected further down the swim with a chub that flashed on contact, bending the little Hardy rod over as it absorbed the initial run downstream. The chub dived into the snags along my bank, but pressure pulled it clear and my first fish was soon on its side ready for the landing net.

I followed another ball of feed with the float, the line coming off the ABU 501 spool acting as a brake, lifting the bait from the bottom, the float going down again with a smaller chub battling away under my rod top.

It was good to see these fish, the tiny chublets of a few years ago now giving a good account of themselves. I missed a couple of quick dips of the float and and added more depth, letting the float run, holding back, then letting go again, as it progressed down the swim. I held back and the float pulled down, the instinctive strike boiling a small tumbling dace on the surface, which came off. A few more trots and it happened again, this time with a better dace that stayed on for longer in the fast flowing stream. Shallowing up again, the bites were sharp dips, which took the bait off. The dace were there in the shallow water down the inside, but I couldn’t hit them. I used the next size down, a 6 mm punch, increasing the depth again by a foot, then bulked the shot, thinking that the dace were attacking the shot, mistaking it for the hemp. Easing the float down, the rod top wrapped round, this time a better chub came to the surface and I lifted my finger from the spool and let it run before closing the bale arm to steadily bring it back to the net.

This chub had fought like a dace, tumbling over on the strike in the fast water. Maybe they were chub after all. The Blackwater used to have some really big dace, but they seem to have disappeared in recent years, so maybe it was wishful thinking? Leaves were now being blown like confetti onto the surface, making holding back difficult, the float collecting leaves as they drifted by. I fed a couple of firm balls up and over to the slower water three quarters across, but again the strong downstream wind was causing problems, putting a bow in the line, making holding back difficult, needing to constantly mend the line to straighten it to the float. A good bite and the fight of a roach was unmistakable, as it zig zagged along the far shelf, before being brought across to the net.

It was hard work trying to control the float in the wind, a 6 No 4 float would have been better, but the river was shallow and clear over there and I prefer the sensitivity of a light float. A few more trots and the float gave a couple of dips, then a downstream sink as another roach made off with the bread.

Presentation was still a problem, my long 14 foot Browning would have controlled the float better, but there was not the head room for it, even the twelve footer clipping the branches above me occasionally. Despite the wind and leaves, the roach wanted the bread giving positive bites and I hit most of them.

The roach were a decent size and playing the next fish, there was a swirl behind as a pike grabbed the roach, snatching it from the hook with a sideways swipe. I watched the pike swim upstream opposite me and devour the roach in a shower of scales, then swim, waving its tail in the current to the cover of an overhanging bush upstream.

The bites stopped on the roach line, but the float carried further down alongside the bushes and disappeared, the strike bending the rod right round as a chub tried to make it to the safety of the far bank snags, keeping the pressure on to turn it away. This chub fought me all the way back to the net.

I fed a couple more balls toward the middle, ringing the changes with the float, tripping through, to well over depth. The roach came back, taking them at all levels, but a tight line to over depth seemed to work best, often hooking them just five yards from my rod top.

The coarse feed had settled among the gravel and the bites, when they came were unmissable.

The wind had picked up again and I had dropped a few balls of feed down the inside line, shallowing up to try the 7 mm punch stopped and started down the swim with a longer tail, taking this chub at the far end of the trot near the fallen birch tree, the float lifting high on the surface, then sinking out of sight. This was a battle as it tried to snag me all the way back to the landing net, running upstream then drifting back to be scooped to safety.

My bait tray told a story of missed bites and a few dropped fish on a day when effort exceded results.

By 3 pm the light was fading fast, the rain had held off, but that wind, although from the south, was getting colder. Five chub and seven roach on light tackle was a just reward in difficult conditions.